4. A Framework for Writing

In this section, we will go through the COCOA CAT framework for writing, including details on the different elements that make up this approach.

In the following video, Lisa Salem-Wiseman provides information on the COCOA CAT acronym in greater detail, including its applicability to writing in the health sector.

(To read along click here.)


Good writing should be simple and clear, and clarity always comes first. As Albert Einstein said, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”


Traditionally, the passive voice has been regarded as more objective and ‘scientific’ but many scientific journals now ask authors to use the active voice. (For example, see here and here.) The active voice keeps the agent clear, for instance, “We discovered the errors” is much clearer than “The errors were discovered”.


Brevity helps simplify writing. Try to remove:

  • Meaningless words and phrases, such as: it is of interest to note; in order to; due to the fact that; as already stated; basically; interestingly; it goes without saying
  • Redundantly paired words, such as: final outcome; red in colour; small in size; combine together; important essentials; interval of time; fewer in number
  • Adjectives and adverbs of no clear limit, such as: very; multiple; sort of; quite a few; a lot; only; many; various
  • Phrases that can be replaced with a word, for example: ‘despite the fact that’ can become ‘although’; ‘in the event that’ can become ‘if’; and ‘at the present time’ can become ‘now’.


The longer and more involved your writing needs to be, the more important it is to write an outline to clearly organize the content and flow.


Writing clearly keeps your message accurate and to the point.


Be aware of commonly misused words and phrases, such as: assure, ensure, insure; case, participant, subject, patient; use, usage, utility, utilize.


Always use inoffensive language; anything that offends someone excludes someone. As mentioned in the previous lesson, you should be aware of humour, jargon, and acronyms in your writing. Clearly define these aspects in your writing to make it easier for your audience.


When in doubt, have someone else to read over what you have written before you release it to your audience to ensure it is thorough and that you haven’t missed anything important.

Learning Exercise: Concise Writing

Concise writing should be clear and accurate writing. Edit the following sentences to make them more concise.

After each question, once you have filled in your answer, click on ‘Hint’ to see one possible way to edit the sentence.

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